The Master is incredibly acted. It’s visually impressive. But, it’s overall a comatose-inducing film.
I’m just going to come right out and say it: I didn’t get it.
There. That’s my secret shame about movies like this. When a movie seems smart and there’s clearly a lot of talent that went into it, I just know that it’s me. I grew up in a small suburb in Texas. I’m state school educated. Maybe I’m dumb. Because I didn’t get it.
But, from what I hear, a lot of people didn’t get it. So, at least it’s not just me, it’s “us.”
For a while in the film, I did get it, but I liked it. This was from the moment Philip Seymour Hoffman hit the screen. Wow and wow. He’s fantastic, and some of his scenes with Joaquin Phoenix are the best I’ve ever seen. But about ¾ through, the story loses its way—but the movie keeps going! The last 40 minutes feel like, “What’s going on? Did P.T. Anderson forget he was making a movie? I feel like he’s just pointing his camera at stuff now.”
Phoenix starts out as a total weirdo drunky violent loser. Then he meets Hoffman, who’s essentially playing some version of L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology. He stows away on his boat and joins the order for what might be years. And he changes, kinda. It’s hard to say, and harder to explain.
Hoffman is The Master, and by master, I mean The Master…of acting!! He’s incredible. Quick, somebody invent a ‘better than an Oscar’ to give to this guy. It’s worth watching just for him. Phoenix is so good playing a messed up guy that he’s hard to watch at times. Which is a compliment, in a way. But seriously, he’s hard to watch at times.
I had heard it was loosely about the beginning of Scientology, but it doesn’t really conclude or reveal anything too controversial or even interesting about Scientology or anything vaguely like Scientology. Sure, there are a few odd comments and behaviors, but it doesn’t really go anywhere with it.
It just kinda starts telling a story, then stops telling a coherent story, but keeps on going. Then there’s credits. Then you’re supposed to leave. It’s weird.
Is this a good date movie? No, but it’s a good movie if you feel like you have too many hours on your hands and you want to volunteer three of them. Or if you’re feeling over-stimulated and really need to zone out. Or if you’re mad at someone, but they don’t know it yet, and they really listen to you when you recommend movies, then it’s a good movie to passive aggressively suggest they see. Sweet, sweet, (boring) revenge.